Can You Save Money Homebrewing Your Own Beer?
Pictured: MoreBeer’s BRKIT100 Homebrew Starter Kit
A driving factor for a lot of homebrewers to pick up this great hobby is… saving money. After all, if I make my own beer at home, it’s got to be cheaper, right?
Let’s find out.
These are estimates and assumptions. Actual costs are going to vary. This scenario assumes you drink quality craft beer. Along those lines, for estimation’s sake, let’s say you like a popular style like a mildly hoppy pale ale and you’d generally spend about $7 or $8 or so on a 6 pack. Shipping charges will be considered $0 as free shipping options are usually available at certain thresholds. Taxes will be considered $0. This scenario assumes an extract brewing technique.
Let’s get started…
- Starter Kit: You’ll probably start with a… starter kit. Let’s just pick MoreBeer’s BRKIT100. That gets you all of the basics at a reasonable cost of at around $75.
- Kettle: You’ll need to have an appropriately sized kettle. You can pretty easily get a no frills 10 gallon kettle for around $75 – See: Recent Kettle Finds for some ideas
- Chilling: You could pretty easily get away with ice baths for chilling, but let’s upgrade you and be a little more realistic. You should be able to get a suitable chiller for around $80.
- Odds and Ends: Tubing, clamps and miscellaneous. Let’s just say $40.
All in, I’m estimating about $270 in startup costs for a basic setup. You could get going for less via Craigslist finds and going super cheap on stuff, and you could certainly go higher. I’m trying to take a reasonable middle of the road approach.
Annualized Equipment Costs
Your metal items are going to be made to last and may very well last the lifetime of your homebrewing hobby. I’m thinking kettle and chiller. I’m not going to annualize those costs. Most of the plastic items will need replaced over time. For estimating purposes, I’m going to say everything in the starter kit will need to be replaced every 5 years. I’ll also throw in half of the odds and ends figure for a yearly cost.
Annualized equipment costs – $15 + 20 = $35 annual estimate for equipment replacement and misc odds and ends
One Time Costs
$75 Kettle + $80 Wort Chiller = $155
Per Batch Ingredient and Consumables Estimate
- Since we’re talking pale ale for our estimations, let’s use MoreBeer’s Cali Mountain Pale Ale. That is a clone of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The extract kit costs $30.99.
- Yeast: Let’s say we use Safale US-05 – that’s currently about $5 at MoreBeer
- Sanitizer: Star San is about 3.9 cents per batch. See: Star San Tips and expand the Savings Estimates section for reasoning. Let’s round it up to 5 cents to account for bottling.
- Cleaning Solution: For estimating purposes, let’s use $25 for 4 lbs of PBW and say we use a total of 1/4 lb per batch total including cleanup and bottling. That’s $1.56 per batch.
- Misc: I’m going to use $2 for water and energy consumption for boiling your wort. This is a complete guess.
Total Per Ingredients and Consumables Estimate – $30.99 + $5 + $.05 + $1.56 + $2 = $39.60
How Many Beers are in 5 Gallons?
There are about 53 x 12 ounce bottles in 5 gallons of homebrew. To be reasonable, I would cut that by two to account for losses along the way. Let’s say 51 or two full cases + 3 beers.
Bottles and Caps
- Bottles – I’m going to say $0 on this one, because you can easily save and re-use commercial pry off style bottles
- Caps – MoreBeer currently has 144 oxygen absorbing caps for about $5.49. That’s about $1.94 in caps for 51 beers.
How Much Did Our Batch Cost US?
$39.60 in ingredients and consumables + $1.94 for caps = $41.54 or about 81 cents per beer or $4.88 per 6 pack.
Adding in Annualized Costs – for estimation purposes, let’s say you and your friends drink 2 x 6 packs per week. That’s 104 x 6 packs per year. I estimated a cost of $35 per year in annualized expenses. That figures to about 34 cents in annualized expenses per six pack.
Total Cost Per 6 Pack = $5.22
If you would normally pay $8 per six pack, you’re saving $2.78 per six pack. At that savings it would take you 54 six packs to pay off your one time costs of $150. At our 2 x 6 packs per week, that’s about 27 weeks and your one time costs are paid off. Although you laid out more than that to start, replaceable items are already factored in to the per 6 pack estimate.
Can You Save Money Homebrewing??
Do you pay more than $5.22 for a 6 pack? The answer is probably yes, maybe $3 to $5 more.
You can save money homebrewing!
You Can Save Even More!
I’ve outlined a very basic scenario for this article. Additional techniques and strategies can help you save even more.
A few examples…
- All grain recipes can save you money compared with extract
- You can propagate and re-pitch yeast.
- You can purchase bulk hops and grain
- This example uses a fairly inexpensive style. If you’re into more expensive beers (examples – double IPA, sour beers) those numbers can change and sometimes drastically. For example, something like a Flanders Red could cost $5, $6, $7+ per bottle for a commercial beer. When ingredient costs probably aren’t that much different than the pale ale example outlined in this post. If you’re saving $5 per bottle of beer, savings can add up quickly.
- If you follow HBF you can be a hall of fame saver! – 8 Ways to Connect with HBF
Will You Actually Save Money?
If you need to justify getting in to home brewing by including savings as a reason. Please stop reading exactly here. 🙂
In my experience, the answer is… probably not. If you want to just enjoy high quality beer and absolutely must save money, you can certainly do it. Practically speaking I don’t think people stop at a basic kit. They continue on to kegging and all manner of shiny stainless things and more. Some people start with a Mr Beer kit and end up with a large commercial brewery by the time they’re done.
Factor in Enjoyment and Entertainment
An intangible to be factored in is… for many, homebrewing is a lot more than making a 6 pack of beer to consume so you can save $3. It’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s an outlet to express your creativity and it’s full of a bunch of awesome people.
If you’re thinking about it… do it. You’ll save money! Or, you won’t. Either way, go for it!
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Yeah, I figured it’s definitely going to cost you more than you planned, and you won’t be saving anything until you get good at it, or probably will spend more if you want to experiment on using rare and different additives and ingredients.
Great article! And from my experience, accurate.
What’s not in here is the assumption you will be brewing on a stove top. A lot of people have a turkey fryer or gas grill. Switch from stove top to propane heat and your heating cost gets closer to or over $5.00 a batch depending on how strong the wind is blowing.